How to Turn any T-Shirt into a Sundress

I cleaned out my closet this weekend, woo hoo! In the process I dug up a bunch of old tees, including an adorable t-shirt that hasn’t fit quite right since pregnancy. And so, a new sundress was born. And a new incessant request: “Mommy, I like your shirt. Please can you  make it into a dress for me please please please please pretty-please-with-sugar-and-a-cherry-on-top???”

Jacinda and I love recycling t-shirts. We’ve made t-shirts into French Poufs, Football JerserysTwo-Minute T Shirt Dresses, Five-Minute T Shirt Tunics, Toddler Harem Pants, Baby Bubble Sleeve Tees, Top Knot Baby Hats, and even Christmas Stockings.

But I think that this is my favorite old tee shirt project, because it’s SO easy, quick, and cute; the perfect little dress for summers in the yard. You don’t even have to hem it, hello, I love not-hemming.

Learn how to turn any old t-shirt into a sundress…

How to Turn any T-Shirt into a Sundress

Begin with your old t-shirt.

Cut off the sleeves just inside the seam, and cut straight across right below the neckline, to remove the original collar.

At this point, you can see that your arm-hole area is going to be too large for a child.

Hold the shirt up to your child’s body and determine where the bottom of the armhole should be. Sew a line from that spot to the original side seam (use matching thread, I used a dark color so you could see). You want to make sure you don’t make a sharp point at the new armhole, gradually blend the angle into the original side seam. If you are using a really big t-shirt, like maybe dad’s old college tee or something, you can sew from the new arm opening all the way down the shirt, creating a new side seam and narrowing the dress. For tips on sewing jersey visit our post: How to Sew Knit Fabrics: Sewing with Jersey 101.

Cut off the excess triangle of fabric and finish the edge with a serger or a zig zag stitch. Or, since jersey won’t unravel, you could just cut it.

Not required, but if you have a serger, use it to finish the edge of the new armhole.

Now you want to gather the fabric along the front of the shirt, to the final width you’d like it to be (measure on your child’s chest). For details on gathering, read our post: Sewing 101: How to Gather Fabric.

Once your top is gathered, sew or serge it in place (this will make the next step easier).

Now attach a strip of double fold bias tape. Just slip it over the edge (if you are doing single-step binding, make sure the shorter side is on top), and sew in place. For a refresher on how to sew with bias tape, read this post: How to Sew with Bias Tape. I used store bought bias tape, but you could cute your t-shirt up with homemade bias tape, here’s how you make your own bias tape: How to Make Bias Tape. Also, I used 1/4″ double fold bias tape, but this will definitely be an easier project with wider tape, like 1/2″.

Repeat this process on the back of the t-shirt.

Now the top edges of the front and back of your sundress are both finished. Time to finish the armholes and create the ties. So cut two long pieces of bias tape (mine were 40″ each). Fold one piece in half to find the center, and pin the center of the bias tape to the center seam on the side of your shirt, enclosing the unfinished edge.

Continue to pin the bias tape around the unfinished edge of the armhole. I have these handy-dandy clover clips, which are much easier to use than pins when attaching something so skinny as 1/4″ double fold bias tape. You can find them on Amazon here: Clover Wonder 10-Piece Clips

Now start all the way at one end of the bias tape and sew together, down the strap, along the edge of the shirt, and across the other strap.

Repeat on the other side.

You are almost done!

Just tie the ends of your straps into tight knots and snip off the excess fabric.

Here’s your bodice all tied up. So cute, right?

This would be so fun to make with a tee from your favorite sports team or 80’s hair band, no?

Enjoy!

One thing I’ve mentioned here before is my daughter’s sensitivity to textures. She really will only wear jersey clothing, so this project is ideal for creating cozy stuff she will actually want to put on her body. If you have a kid that is also freaked out by things like seams, tags, and the like, I’d love to hear more about your challenges and any solutions that have worked for you. I have many more ideas for using old jersey sheets, tees, and sweats to create cute things for your baby.

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70 Comments

Sam

My daughter will pretty much wear anything, but at Quilt Market I ended up winning the new ModKid sewing book. The shorts in there might be perfect for Scarlet – they are all knit with hardly any seams, and the foldover waistband doesn’t have elastic. Plus they’re super cute. 🙂

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danielle

I LOVE THIS! I don’t have a sewing machine or any talent when it comes to sewing… I will be mailing ALL THE T-SHIRTS to you immediately! 🙂 Okay, I will try my mom first… But it’s a lovely and simple tutorial. I love to refashion the things i already own!

cheers!

danielle

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Jacinda

This is one of my all-time favorite Prudent Baby projects. So happy I’ve been putting off that goodwill dropoff.

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Robin

Quick, fun project!

I’m a chiropractor who works with kids with neurosensory processing disorders. Tactile (touch) over-sensitivity is extremely common these days. I’d highly recommend reading The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz. While this may be much more info than you need, the book does a great job taking a HUGE subject and making it manageable.

That said, if you’re dealing with a mild case a great tactic is to desensitize her skin with different textures ex: using a small paint brush on sensitive areas (such as the palms of her hands). I particularly like sensory balls http://www.amazon.com/Edushape-Sensory-Balls-Set-Solid/dp/B000XSRGK6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1338388730&sr=8-2 You can run these along her skin (start with arms and legs and then move to the trunk) or play games like catch with them (carefully, they are hard balls).

Note of caution: of course, this is general advice based on a tiny bit of background. Take it with a grain of salt and feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions!

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Jaime

thank you robin! i do have the book and it’s been helpful. i will definitely get these balls too. XOXO

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Emily

Oh how cute! I’ve been wanting those little clips since I saw them at the quilting store. They would be perfect for skinny bias tape.

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Sorahart

It’s official, I may never get rid of a tee again! Thanks for a fun idea.

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Mariel

THANK YOU!!!! My dad was just on a trip and brought me back a shirt that’s just not me, now I can make it into a cute dress for my little one! Brilliant! Now I’ll just have to dig it out of the Goodwill bag before it goes out the door!

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Jaime

i love this idea, it makes me think that buying an airport t from wherever i go, like cleveland or kansas city, and turning into a dress for Scarlet as a little memento/gift. love!

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Christina

Just made one and my big girl is delighted. She is dancing to her favourite song in the matching dress, how cool is that. Thank you so much for your super easy to follow tutorials.

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Melissa

This is perfect for the shirts I wasn’t quite ready to let go of but will never fit again. My mini has been eyeing the My Little Pony Shirt for a while now. I guess I know which one to start with. lol

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Joelle

Why did all this good stuff have to come AFTER my girls were too big for this kind of stuff. I guess now I just need to wait until the oldest one starts with grand-babies. She is only 20 so who knows when that could happen!!??

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Marcy

I have a few perfect old t’s I am going to make for my daughter..when I shared this on FB..my big sister said she would prefer to see her neice in a Morrissey dress..so i suggested she ship me some old t’s! I am going to do this project tomorrow morning..maybe today I have to pick up some bias tape! (not sklled enough to make my own ) 🙂

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kristink

AHHH!!!! I would DIE to have that shirt!I used to live in Savannah, GA and walk by the Marc Jacobs there (and drool a bit). Oh memories of being newleywed and broke! Adorable shirt. I am going to get on this right now!

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Kate

Love it! But I have a 3 year old BOY… any ideas on how to recycle cool Ts for him?
please and thanks!

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sammysgrammy

Ladies at my church used this same method on reused pillowcases to make dresses for the ministry – dress a girl around the world – dresses go to girls in 3rd world countries and actually protect them from being impounded into the sex trade. The reason: girls with nice dresses are perceived to be under the care of adults (not orphaned)

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jusnz

I love this idea! We must have been going through our clothes drawers at the same time! I have just finished the ‘pillow case dress’ that sammysgrammy was talking about. I used some left over fabric from another project, but same idea. I am in New Zealand and making summer dresses is just teasing. My daughter will have a ridiculous quantity of dresses by the time summer comes back over here! Thank you for your awesome post. I have a pic of my dress – how do I post it?

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Beth

Great tutorial. Love how you have the links in the post – I tried sewing with knits and gathering for the first time today thanks to your post. The first I made when my daughter was at school so it was too wide and too short but she was in the room to measure for the second try – the second has its issues but is wearable – yea! I didn’t have any bias tape so I made some from another shirt. thanks for the great post.

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Jill Frank

My kids too are picky when it comes to clothes (although it is getting better as they get older). My grils don’t like ties that flap on their shoulders. But I will probably still so this with straight straps on the shoulders. It should work just fine.

I also thought about the possibility of SPD with your daughter. If she has it, you probably already know. But, just in case, this sight has been really helpful for several of my friends that have kids with SPD.
http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/

Keep the upcycle projects coming!

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Holly

Saw this pinned on pinterest. You gave me an idea for a tank! I feel like I’m constantly looking for tanks that I like and I just happen to have a shirt I love with a huge hole in the underarm that I could do this with and maybe one day do it for my future kid!

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ambero

I love this! My husband came home from a bowl game this winter with a size small shirt, which would be … extremely revealing on me! It’s tiny! I’ve been wanting to make it into a dress for my daughter, but didn’t know how to do it without losing a lot of the image. This is perfect!

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Jaime

my husband always buys me size small too! i’m like, have you seen me? ha. let’s take it as a compliment 🙂

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Kat @ And Ladybug Hugs

My daughter is almost 9 and has similar issues with textures and textiles. We have cut out ever tag since she was 4. No elastic, no waistbands, no socks. It is a daily struggle but I love your tutorial. I am sure she would love some of these and I can’t wait to make one for her!

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Lisa {Sweet 2 Eat Baking}

Hi, I came across your website from craft gawker. I’m totally digging this. I used to be a machinist by trade so have and know how to use a sewing machine and overlocker (you call them sergers). I’m looking forward to digging out some T-shirts and maybe even buying new cheapo ones to make into summer dresses for my kiddos. I have 3 kids myself and all of them are girls so this is right up my street!

One question though. In your experience making these, what would you say would be the maximum age a T-shirt fits into? I’m a UK size 8 (I think this is a US 6). What size t-shirts did you use?

Thanks and sorry for the Q’s. Thanks for sharing this.

-Lisa.

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Erica

I use a lot of organic cotton jersey for myself and for my toddler. We have unusual allergies and sensitivities and I find organic jersey cotton to be the most versatile fabric for us. We also allergic to latex so a yoga waist is, quite possibly, the best thing that was ever invented. You can easily get tired of drawstring. Thanks for the idea. I can’t wait to try it out!

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jess

wow! im off to see how many T’s i can find to make some!!! fantastic idea!

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Nicola

What a beautiful little girl!
I found this project through Craftgawker and I love it. I’m off to try it!
Thanks for sharing.

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Erin

My daughter is the same way! She is super picky about material and only likes knit against her skin. At the age of 2, she began pulling on her clothes and shouting, “Uncomfabuhl!” 🙂

Thanks for the cute tute. 🙂

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Kassidy

i so want to make this for my little cousin shelby and my sister amelia they will love it <3 thanks so much for posting this

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Michelle

I cannot wait to make this for my daughter. I have the perfect Doors and Bowie. Hope they come out as awesome as yours 🙂

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Yvonne

I love this. I just cleaned out some drawers of old tees and I’m gonna’ try this for my grand-daughter. You did a tremendous job on this. It’s gorgeous!!!

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From T-Shirt to Sundress.

[…] night I sewed one of my old T-shirts into a sundress for my girl, using this awesome Prudent Baby tutorial.  I was worried that my Lucia wouldn’t go for the sushi (no pink, glitter, tulle, […]

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Laura

I have been looking for something like this for a while. My nephew (25) still likes Teenage Mutant Ninjas Turtles and Vegas a little girl (2 1/2) so I bought them both the same shirt with the intention of making hers into a dress but I wanted to do morethan just cute the sleeves off. My only delema is they live in AZ and I live in OH. Wish me luck!Thank you for such a GREAAAT idea.
Laura

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Melissa

Thanks for the great tutorial! I made this dress today for my little girl. I haven’t sewed many clothes but this tutorial was easy to follow and my dress turned out awesome. I see many more in my child’s future!

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Alison

Thank you for this great tutorial! I recently ran a race that benefitted my friend’s baby with trisomy 18. She also has a 4 year old daughter. I turned my tshirt from the race with the baby’s name on it into a dress for the 4 year old. I’m not very skilled at sewing but this tutorial made it so easy!

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